In a disappointing result, the Mallards’ playoff hopes diminished with a home defeat to the first-place Eau Claire Express. The Mallards stole the early momentum with a pair of runs in the first inning, but the visitors put a stop to the Ducks’ offense, denying Madison of any additional runs for the remainder of the game. The Mallards produced many opportunities but failed to come through in the clutch, falling 4-2.
After winning a league-record 16 games in a row and 20 of 21, the Mallards have dropped their last two ballgames — both at the Duck Pond.
In the bottom of the first frame, the Mallards started a two-out rally, as Randy Molina and Evan LeBlanc connected with back-to-back singles with LeBlanc’s rounding his teammate. Bobby Hubbard then dug in and smacked a line drive triple down the right-field line, scoring LeBlanc. The rally ended after Daniel Webb struck out looking.
The Express got hot in the middle of the game, knotting up the score in the third and fourth frames, scoring a run apiece off Mallards starter Jim Sajewich.
With a tie game heading into the bottom of the fourth, the first three Mallards’ batters went to work to load the bases. Hubbard led off with a single, followed by singles from Webb and Adam Pasono (pictured), who placed a bunt down the third-base line. With no outs against them, Matt Behren struck out swinging, and Ryan Tinkoff grounded into a 5-2-3 double play to end the inning and scoring threat.
Travis High (L, 2-2) entered the game to start the fifth and looked outstanding early. High recorded a quick 1, 2, 3 inning in the fifth, but the Express found the answer in the next time around. In the sixth, the deciding frame, High missed his spots to walk two-consecutive batters on eight pitches. David Cales later stepped in to deliver the game-winning, two-RBI triple, which put the Express on top 4-2.
The Mallards stranded four batters between the bottom of the sixth and the end of the game to concede the victory to the second-half champions, the Eau Claire Express.
Despite the loss, the middle of the Mallards order came through with hits, as the three through seventh spots all recorded a hit, including two-hit games from Molina, LeBlanc, Hubbard and Pasono.
Eau Claire’s Tim Huber (W, 9-1) took his league-leading ninth win of the year, going 7.2 innings and allowing 10 hits, a pair of runs (both earned) and walk while striking out five Mallards.
For game highlights, visit here.
In the affair, Madison was six fans away from its 7,500-person capacity, setting a new season high.
In league news, Randy Molina and Brandon Wikoff each made the Northwoods League Post-Season All-Stars list, after they elevated into the top five in batting and remained throughout there throughout the duration of the season.
The Duck Pond will host one more game before next season, as the Mallards will host the Express for the series finale, scheduled to start at 6:05 p.m.
Sunday is Quench Gum Fan Appreciation Night. Great giveaways all night long.